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No, we haven't sold a lot of coal lately

In the 100 Years Ago section, it was noted Sept. 10 that the school district had switched to burning coal because it was cheaper than wood. In the same paper under classified, you had a section for: Firewood, Oil and Coal. I have been buying wood from that section for 41 years. I have never seen a listing for coal. I'm sure you dropped buggy whips some time ago, why not coal? If for some reason you don't want to drop it, perhaps you could at least list it as "Clean Coal" to be more politically correct.

— Jon D., Medford

Jon, have you checked out the price of buggy whips recently? There could be a pretty good market there.

But we have to admit that the market for coal has indeed gone up in smoke (sorry, couldn't resist). The valley's fragile airshed makes the addition of black coal smoke a non-starter.

Medford does, however, have a coal connection, as evidenced by Coal Mine Road on the southeast side of town. A company named Crater Coal Co. operated the Black Bear Mine at the end of Coal Mine Road around the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century. The mine tunnel was 900 feet long and had three coal beds; coal in the principal bed was 12 feet thick.

The mine provided coal primarily for railroad locomotives and was sold in 1916 for $8 a ton, according to our archives.

So in 1916, the idea of an ad for coal was reasonable. Not so much today; in fact, folks in our classifieds department can't remember a coal ad being placed in the past five years.

The "Firewood, Oil and Coal" listing actually was a modern addition — it came as part of a corporate system under our previous owners. It might not have made sense to run it, but corporations being what they are, there was apparently no room for nonconformity.

We now, however, have a local owner, and after discussing your question, the decision was made to drop "Coal" from the heading of the section. That may have happened by the time you read this, but in any case it's in the works.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.